DELAWARE, Ohio (March 25) — The 16th annual Mr. Aruba's Winter Nationals Bench Race and Charity Challenge raised a record-breaking $16,714 for the JEGS Foundation for Cancer Research, topping the previous high-mark of funds raised at a single event by more than $3K.
"Events like this make us very proud to be a part of such a great racing community," said Jeg Coughlin Jr., one of four brothers who own and operate JEGS Automotive and serve as caretakers of the JEGS Foundation. "It was never in our plans or our dreams for the JEGS Foundation to receive outside funds. Our goal as a family was to direct earnings from our various business efforts toward cancer research through the JEGS Foundation. The Mr. Aruba races have just been a remarkable addition to what we've been able to accomplish.
"We have personally witnessed so much progress through our association with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center as well as the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. As always, 100-percent of the money donated from this year's Mr. Aruba's Winter Nationals Bench Race and Charity Challenge will go to those entities."
As he does each year, Coughlin lauded Mike DeChicco and Jane Graebner — aka Mr. and Mrs. Aruba — who created the Winter Nationals Bench Race back in 2005 using a practice Christmas Tree in DeChicco's basement, aka Ostrander International Raceway, in Ostrander, Ohio.
Coughlin noted that DeChicco and Graebner were the latest recipients of the JEGS Foundation Award of Excellence, with total contributions raised by the duo and their passionate and generous friends now topping $120K, a remarkable sum by any standard.
"There are everyday heroes out there," DeChicco said. "Like the wonderful people across the country that protect and look out for us every day to keep all of us healthy and safe. There's also selfless people that come together with deals like this and collectively make a difference. Thank God for all of them.
"To me, the participants and supporters of the Mr. Aruba Winter Nationals are unsung heroes who year after year have faithfully given up their time and money for a really worthy cause. When Jane and I recently accepted the JEGS Foundation Award of Excellence we did so on behalf of all the people who have participated in and contributed to our event for the past 16 years."
More than 60 racers battled at this year's Mr. Aruba's Winter Nationals with top honors going to Larry Smith, who won the Gambler's Race over Leonard Wyche. After accepting a $1,032 top prize, Smith immediately donated his earnings to the JEGS Foundation. Noel Cooke, the winner of the 50/50 drawing of $158, also gave back the entire purse. Likewise, Chip Foust Memorial Race winner Isaiah Wasserback and runner-up Brian Spring kicked-back all of their prize money.
Rick Rondy collected this year's raffle prize, while Jason Wheatcraft beat Lonnie Smith in the Race for the Firecore Wires. Finally, Doug Wright, complete with the required pirate's eye patch, brazenly blocked the Tree completely with his other hand to blindly win the Beer Eliminator against Ellen Wheatcraft in an epic final-round battle.
"I've participated in the race many times in the past and trust me these folks know how to have some fun," Coughlin said. "It's a big party. I did have a chance to stop by this year's event early in the day but missed the hardcore racing in the evening due to a prior commitment. Either way, we cannot thank everyone enough for their continued generosity."
Mr. Aruba wishes to acknowledge Precision Machine of Canton, Doug Duell's Auto Group, John Holt Racing, Mark Hummer, C&C Wheatcraft of Indy Cylinder Head, D&D Automotive, Buckeye Stock, Super Stock Racing, Superformance Gaskets, E. Clayton Tackett, and Gabby's and the Foot and Ankle Wellness Center.